The health secretary’s new GP access targets have no contractual basis and are just ‘hot air’, the BMA has said.
However, it warned of the damage the ‘divisive’ announcement could do to GPs’ relationship with their patients, saying that practices have been ‘set up to fail’.
Last week, Dr Thérèse Coffey’s new plan for patient access set out a range of measures to improve access to GP practices, including two-week GP appointment targets and the new publication of practice-level appointment data.
But the BMA GP Committee’s latest bulletin stressed that none of the measures are ‘underpinned by any contractual agreements’.
GPC England chair Dr Farah Jameel said: ‘Three health secretaries in six months have been the lead-up to the latest ill-informed missive from the current health secretary.
‘I hasten to add that none of today’s announcement is underpinned by any contractual agreements and so for all intentions and purposes, it’s nothing more than a lot of hot air.’
She added: ‘But of course, the reality is that these divisive political statements set us up to fail in our communities and with our patients.
‘I do wish to believe that the health secretary has her heart in the right place and I hope that in the coming days and weeks, my team and I can help her find a way to deliver the care we all so desperately wish to enable.’
The bulletin added that the start of a new Parliament – with a new Prime Minister and health secretary at the helm – has been a missed opportunity to bring ‘hope and positivity’ to GP practices.
Dr Jameel said: ‘While this could have been an opportunity to signal a change in step within Government – injecting some much-needed hope and positivity into the profession – we have instead seen a further demonstration of the failure to understand the crisis in general practice.’
The health secretary and deputy prime minister’s Our plan for patients set an ‘expectation’ that GP practices offer non-urgent appointments to patients within two weeks as well as same-day urgent appointments.
Alongside this, data on how many appointments each GP practice is offering and appointment waiting times will be published starting from November this year.
Dr Coffey has indicated that the only repercussion for practices that do not meet the expectations would be the potential of patients switching GP.
Ahead of the publication of the full plan, the BMA and RCGP both reacted with dismay to the announcement of new targets for general practice.
The health secretary also came under criticism by GPs after appearing on BBC radio claiming GP numbers have been ‘stable’ since the last general election – the same period during which official data shows FTE numbers have plummeted.